Best Regional Restaurant: Time Out Food Awards 2018

Winner: Laura

The best dining outside the bright lights of Melbourne

If the Mornington Peninsula didn’t have it all already – good looks, stonking new hotels, an embarrassment of late-model European sports cars – along comes the wonderland of Pt Leo Estate to let mere mortals know where they really stand on life’s ledger. Laura, the 40-oddseat restaurant sectioned off from the 100-odd-seat bistro, is, in dining terms, the Estate’s pièce de résistance, where the tables are wrapped in leather and everything is just as it ought to be. Both physically and edibly, it’s embedded in a rare sense of place, the latter thanks to exec chef Phil Wood, lured south (one presumes) by the prospect of a blank canvas. It’s a canvas Wood is colouring with keen choices born of the location and the broader region. Fine dining is too much of an old-fashioned term to describe this very new-fashioned restaurant, where the
warm brioche rolls are made with red wheat grown close by.

The menu doesn’t go the long-winded degustation route but a tighter four, five or six courses dotted with site-specific origin stories, like the lion’s mane mushrooms from a nearby Mornington farm. Those meaty mushies are pan fried and glazed, Wood says, in the same way he would a chicken wing: with stock, sake, soy, mirin and butter. The result is something you’d bet your yacht was actually abalone. It’s a signature that shapeshifts over the weeks; ours came with a tiny dice of real abalone and a drape of radish in a rich, sticky sluice of beetroot, its earthiness mollified by shiso. Dish of the year, 2018? Quite possibly. It would be a crime to ignore the floor team: the waiters’ answer to the AFL Fantasy League. Pt Leo Estate is exerting the gravitational pull of a black hole on the industry’s top tier, both front and back of house.

By: Time Out Editors

Photograph: Graham Denholm